Two University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff officials were recently honored for their support of Arkansas' aquaculture industry.

Two University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff officials were recently honored for their support of Arkansas’ aquaculture industry.

Chancellor Lawrence A. Davis Jr. and Mary Benjamin, vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, received awards from the Catfish Farmers of Arkansas and the Arkansas Bait and Ornamental Fish Growers Association.

The awards were presented at the March 15 meeting of the UAPB National Aquaculture/Fisheries Advisory Council. The council, which is made up of stakeholders and peers of the UAPB Aquaculture/Fisheries Center of Excellence, meets annually to review the center’s activities.

Wayne Branton, president of Catfish Farmers of Arkansas, said the center plays a major role in the success of fish producers.

“We as catfish producers feel blessed that we have the finest scientific support available through UAPB,” he said. “We give a lot of credit to Dr. Carole Engle (director of the aquaculture center) and her staff, but it also takes devoted leadership and vision from top administration. That is why we are so proud and grateful to Chancellor Davis and Vice Chancellor Benjamin. Our success has to be attributed to their hard work and devotion to our industry.”

The Arkansas aquaculture industry appreciates the assistance that the center and its staff provide, said Ted McNulty, director of aquaculture for the Arkansas Department of Agriculture.

“Their knowledge and research contributes to Arkansas being a leader in the aquaculture industry,” he said. “All of this is made possible by strong leadership and commitment to improving our community by Chancellor Lawrence Davis and Dr. Mary Benjamin.”

The Aquaculture/Fisheries Center was established in 1988 as an academic, research and Extension center dedicated to the development and transfer of timely and problem-solving information. The center serves aquaculture producers, aquaculture support industries, natural resource managers, outdoors recreational users and students.

“Chancellor Davis and Dr. Benjamin, through their foresight and leadership, nurtured the UAPB Aquaculture/Fisheries Center into a major economic engine for Arkansas,” said Mike Freeze, vice chair of the National Aquaculture Fisheries Advisory Council. “Arkansas’ fish farmers are envied by fish farmers all across the nation for the support they receive from UAPB. With the new Ph.D. program in aquaculture/fisheries that Chancellor Davis and Dr. Benjamin supported, Arkansas’ fish farmers are looking for even greater accomplishments from UAPB.”

University officials say the new doctoral program will help solve problems experienced by an industry that is a major part of the state’s economy. Arkansas ranks second to Mississippi in overall fish production, third in catfish production and first in baitfish production. The state ranks first in the production of hybrid striped bass fingerlings, grass carp, largemouth bass for foodfish and sportfish for stocking farm ponds.

Dissertation topic areas for the first Ph.D. students will include fish nutrition, fish diseases, economics, markets and marketing, and new species development.

Bobbie Crockett is an extension specialist - communications at UAPB’s School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.